04 February 2009

Health Plans Daschle'd!

Daschle is out as Secretary of Health. Speculation has it that Obama's health plan may well suffer as a consequence. It is not my intention to defend Daschle; I simply don't know enough about him to do that. Instead, I'd like to attack the folks who've attacked him.

Commenting on an earlier post of mine, Damon reminded me that there is plenty of hypocrisy in DC still. He's right. The Democrats often talk about the importance of government programs, and funding those with more taxes from the rich than the middle class and then .... well, it turns out that once they get money they are obviously just as reluctant to pay taxes as anyone else. Hypocrisy indeed.

Yet this is noise. Really. Our infant mortality rate is the highest among industrialized nations, even though we spend more on health care than any other country in the world.

The question that Congress should have asked is simple to phrase and hard to discern: will Daschle help to make ours a better health care system? If he can, he will literally save lives. No one stops a fireman as he is about to run into a burning building whether or not he has outstanding parking tickets. We're just happy to have him rescue lives.

George Washington killed representatives of the government that claimed rule over him. He ordered his men to attack British soldiers. There was nothing legal or honorable about this - at least from the standpoint of the British. But this had to be done in order to wrest away independence. No one judges Washington for having killed British soldiers: people judge Washington for having helped to create the most curious and imitated experiment in the history of government.

If Daschle had been able to change our health care system to work better and more affordable for everyone, it would not have mattered whether or not he'd paid his taxes properly. The point is not to appoint a Secretary of Health who has a clean record; the point is to appoint someone able to effect change.

Yet scandal is so much easier to understand than policy. The good news is that we got Spitzer out of politics. He used prostitutes. The bad news is that we're floundering around with regulation and bailout packages that are literally costing us TRILLIONS of dollars. If Spitzer's expertise in financial market and company regulation might have saved us even billions, would his penchant for prostitutes have mattered? If Daschle could save us billions in health care cost, would the fact that he failed to pay thousands in taxes matter?

Until our media does a better job of reporting on policy than scandal, we're probably doomed to watch a parade of policy makers who are careful about not making mistakes rather than reckless about making a difference. Perhaps one reason that change is so hard to effect in DC is that the people who finally get there have learned to be cautious about making waves. It seems that this misses the point.


Kale said...

Ron - you do mean that our infant mortality rate is one of the "highest" among industrialized nations?

Ron Davison said...

yes. Thank you. (And because of this feel welcome to add "online editor" to your resume. I'll vouch for you.)

Kale said...

hahah. thanks.

Anonymous said...

you skirt the issue on spitzer. he does something that ought to be legal...

Big Al said...

When it comes to politicians and how the public perceives some of their actions I believe we can categorize perceptions into 3 categories: those who won’t accept whether the action if legal or not, those who won’t accept if the action is illegal but WILL tolerate or accept if the action is legal, and those who accept regardless of the action being legal/illegal.

I fall into the 2nd camp: I can’t accept illegal action but can tolerate or accept if the action is legal. Spitzer’s deeds were illegal. Even though he’s clearly shown his expertise in financial markets and company regulation, by legal definition what he is accused of doing is considered a crime. And yes, he’s a hypocrite in that his “saintly” side was publicly lambasting prostitution while his “devilish” side was enjoying the flesh. Assuming the allegations prove true, Spitzer has GOT to realize and pay the price for breaking the law. Having said all this, I have to admit trying to tie his financial markets and company regulation work to the crime of prostitution is quite a stretch, therefore, I think it very appropriate if Spitzer would pay the price for his illegal activity (assuming it’s all true), he should absolutely be considered as a top candidate to help out now.

Concerning Daschle . . . well . . . I’m just like anybody else: I hate paying taxes. But I do. Why? It’s the law. So I have an accountant who helps make sure I pay and follow the rules. If Daschle weren’t in any form of government, I’d say “Hey buddy, pay up.”, and go my merry way. But for Daschle, who like all other elected officials has one strike against him already because he wears the stink of a high-ranking government official, how can he be so STOOOPID to think we’d look the other way and chuckle because he didn’t pay his fair share. The vast majority of US Citizens already think all elected reps are getting money under the table and gifts galore from lobbyists. But to not pay taxes? Do elected officials get lobotomies upon entering office? Sheesh! How can we ever trust somebody like this? He didn’t make a mistake. He knowingly broke the law. A mistake would’ve been forgetting to sign the tax return. He had to know he was being illegal, and STOOOPID to boot! And we should forgive him? ONLY w/restrictions, such as he agrees to be audited every year. We have GOT to start seeing some accountability.

Life Hiker said...

I am all over the place on this one. I want the best people to do the hard work, like Ron. Like Big Al, I hate it when rich people and government officials cheat on their taxes...I'd like to jail them! Like WOTB (Emily)I think government should stay away from "crimes" of choice like drugs and consentual sex between adults (for money, even).

It's sad that the "apparently" most-qualified people have such ugly little problems. In a nation of 300 million, you'd think there would be a few more good choices.

Ron Davison said...

I think that the point is that folks who are too focused on abiding by the rules of the system might not do as much to change that system.

I can't argue. I wish I could. People who are taxing us should pay taxes. It's simple. But I do think that this ought to be subordinated to whether someone can effect change.

I wonder how many qualified people simply don't want the scrutiny and search for perfection that seems to come with accepting or running for such positions. Again, this emphasis on purity probably costs us when it comes to change.

David said...

I think Newt Gingrich might agree with you. Daschle had ethics issues well before this tax evasion event reaching back into his tenure as a Senator and Senate leader. Obama stressed a clean government free of lobbyists yet seeks waivers for many and has obtained them. I agree with you mostly but sometimes these people paint themselves into corners from which they can't extricate themselves.

Anonymous said...

Once a person lies, cheats, steals; they can't be trusted to be in a public office. If a man cheats on his wife, he'll cheat the American people, etc.

"It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 19 August 1785